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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
Good day and welcome to HBS. I’m glad and thankful that you’re here today.
I’m going to try to complete our study of Romans 11 this week. But you just never know how this lesson will “unfold” once we start. I could discover a “side trail” and spend some time exploring it with you and this is the thing. I have no intention of short-changing God’s children or withholding noteworthy information from His beloved in other words just to reach some goal. You’re going to get my best always.
Please open your Bible at Romans 11:28.
28: From the standpoint of the gospel they (the Jews) are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)
What is Paul saying here?
Because God had revealed the mystery (secret) of Israel’s partial hardening and (true) Israel’s future restoration to our Apostle Paul (a Jew) he understood her situation fully. We know Paul was deeply concerned about their refusal to accept the Truth about Jesus Christ being the only way to salvation. Thus, Paul’s heart’s desire and prayers to God were for their salvation. (Romans 9:1-3, 10:1)
We also know from the Book of Acts that Paul put his faith to work in preaching God’s Gospel to the Jews first: Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:1-3)
But we also know from the Book of Acts the Jews would not accept Paul’s preaching about Jesus Christ crucified and he was persecuted by his countrymen for his testimony. Paul experienced their rejection of Jesus Christ personally. This is what he means by saying: they are enemies of the gospel (v28).
What does this book say? Let’s all go to Acts 13:46: Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you (Jews) first; since you repudiate (renounce) it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles (in hope that I might move some of you to jealousy and save some). (Acts 13:42-46, 18:6, 28:28; Romans 11:14)
Well, there you go… I didn’t intend to teach on this subject or even to bring it up, but when a Bible verse comes to my mind I know it’s not there for entertainment purposes. The Bible verse is Romans 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to (who) everyone who believes, (now watch this) to the Jew first and also to the (Gentile or) Greek.
Casual Bible readers miss out. However, if you study your Bible there’s quite a bit “going on” in this verse. One of the things this verse is communicating to us is God obligated (verse 14) Paul to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews first.
Secondly, the Gospel of God has the power to save everyone who believes. The one thing that can rule that out is an individual’s unbelief or not trusting in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins. But God has given His people first priority re: His good news and four reasons for this quickly come to mind:
- The Israelites are God’s chosen people (Genesis 12, Nehemiah 9:7; Deuteronomy 14:2) God not only chose the Jews to be His people He set His everlasting favor upon them, setting them apart from all the peoples of the earth. He did this freely on the basis of His choice. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
- The Israelites are the guardians of God’s special revelation – the O.T. Scriptures. In Romans 3:1-2 Paul says, “What advantage has the Jew?” Or what is the value of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles (Word) of God. God gave His promises and special revelation to Israel by Moses and the prophets. (Romans 9:4)
- The greatest privilege of all is the Messiah Himself came as a Jew to the Jews. (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24; Romans 1:3, 9:5;
- Following up to that great privilege, the next priority the Jews have over the Gentiles is that salvation is from the Jews. This simply sums up everything I’ve mentioned so far. The Jews are God’s firstborn of the nations, they alone received the oracles of God, and Jesus Christ (a Jew) came to His own people to confirm the promises given to the fathers, so clearly salvation is “from the Jews.” (John 4:22; Romans 15:8)
Getting back to v28, Paul says: but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
Scripture reveals the whole house of Israel had proven to be enemies of God’s Son, Jesus Christ and the Gospel. For this reason, they became, “not My people” and were scattered to the four winds by Divine judgment. (Hosea 1:9, 3:4-5)
However, in spite of this enmity, the mercy of God is such that He plans to save “all (true) Israel.” Paul says that this is “from the standpoint of God’s choice,” which is an obvious demonstration of His Sovereignty and His Grace. (Romans 9:25, 11:26)
Let’s not forget what we’ve already learned. Flip back to Romans 9:11: here Scripture clearly says – God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls.
Let’s go to verse 29.
29: for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
The word irrevocable is a legal term. It means: unable to cancel or recall; that which is unalterable or irreversible, definite, binding, firm, fixed. The word “irrevocable” in the Greek is: Ametameletos and means – not repentant of; unregretted.
Here is more evidence of God’s Sovereignty. Despite Israel’s “in Your face” idolatry, their evil doings i.e. sacrificing their sons and daughters to the pagan god Molech, their sinful ways, and their apostasy God will not change His mind, or sever His covenants with His chosen people. God’s promises stand! (Leviticus 18:21; 1 Kings 11:1-8, 12:31).
The gifts Israel received from God we studied some time ago. They include: the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple service, and the promises. (Romans 9:4-5)
The calling is that Israel is a holy nation (set apart) unto God Himself. He has determined His promises will come about not only in the coming Millennium, but also in the new creation: “For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me, “declares the LORD, So your offspring and your name will endure. (Isaiah 66:22)
The gifts which God bestowed upon His people and the calling (or invitation) with which He has favored Israel will never be revoked – for God does not change His mind.
Let’s go to verses 30-32.
30: For just as you (Gentiles) once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their (the Israelites) disobedience,
31: so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
32: For God has shut up all (both Jew and Gentile) in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
There are a couple of things worth mentioning from this section of Scripture. First, I am reminded of this Bible verse: For there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11).
If there’s no partiality with God (and there isn’t) why do Gentiles believe they are better than the Jews? Why is it being promoted by God’s Church? (See Replacement Theology)
Remember Paul’s teaching from Romans 3:9-11: What then? Are we (Gentiles) better than they (the Israelites) Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are (what) under sin; as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
As far as the only Righteous Judge is concerned, every sinner stands equal before God: Guilty! Believers stand equal before God, as well for now there is no difference. The Body of Christ is being filled with both Jew and Gentile at this present time – we are one. (Ephesians 2:13-22)
Therefore, take note. Gentiles are not better than the Jews! In fact, Paul warned the Gentiles several times to guard against becoming high minded toward the Jews saying: do not be arrogant toward the branches (v18). It’s as if he could foresee this issue becoming a major problem in the years to come and he was correct.
Antisemitism amongst the Gentiles, I’ve heard it referred to as “the longest hatred,” has persisted in many forms for over 2000 years. The seeds of Antisemitism were sown in the early centuries of the so called Christian era by the early Church Fathers.
I’ll cite one clear example: Martin Luther (1483-1546), at his spiritual high point is much revered as the instigator of the Protestant Reformation. At his sinful low point he had a significant influence on German anti-Semitism owing to his inflammatory statements from the pulpit and in his writings.
In his book titled, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” he recommends that people, “Set fire to Jewish synagogues or schools,” He also suggested their “houses should be razed and destroyed,” and Jewish “prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, (should) be taken from them.” In addition, “their rabbi’s (should) be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb.”
Nothing published so far mirrors a Christ-like attitude or behavior, and Mr. Luther isn’t done yet. His tirade continues: “safe-conduct on the highways (should) be abolished completely for the Jews,” and “all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them.” He also said the Jews could: “have a flail, an ax, a hoe; a spade” put in their hands so “young, strong Jews and Jewesses” could “earn their bread in the sweat of their brow.”
If you said, that’s a picture of the Holocaust, you’d be correct. Luther’s inflammatory comments were adopted by Adolph Hitler and it’s been said Nazism was a legacy of Martin Luther, who had called for “the urgent expulsion of Jewish people from Germany” in his last sermon. Of course Hitler and his henchmen were more zealous toward their mistreatment of the Jews than Luther had suggested. More than 6,000,000 Jewish men, women, and children were killed by the Nazi regime.
Instead of following Paul’s example of provoking the Jews to jealousy (v14) by displaying the love and patience of Jesus Christ to all thereby drawing them near to our Lord and Savior, the Church has repeatedly caused them offence while arrogantly (v18) proclaiming that they had replaced Israel as God’s chosen people and persecuting them even to their death.
The Cross of Jesus Christ, supposedly a symbol of compassion, love, and God’s grace for everyone (especially Christians), has instead become a long-term symbol of suffering and oppression for the Jews who were unjustly labeled “Christ-killers” down through the centuries thanks to many people who bear Christ’s name - Christians.
The Truth is it wasn’t the Jews or the Gentiles that killed Jesus Christ. Oh they conspired together and performed His execution true enough but it was God the Father who predetermined His mission and His death for the sins of mankind: …this Man (Jesus Christ), delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:23; John 3:17; Psalms 1:1-3)
So much hatred; so much needless suffering; and countless lives lost over the centuries all due to man’s sinful nature and their failure to understand what God had said: If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2; Matthew 22:36-40)
When people choose to hate the Jews and persecute them no matter how, they are following Satan’s agenda and not the Creator God’s.
There’s one more thing I want to mention before we move past verses 30-32.
30: For just as you (Gentiles) once were disobedient to God, but now (in God’s Dispensation of Grace) have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,
31: so these (the Israelites) also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
32: For God has shut up all (both Jew and Gentile) in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
Paul uses the word mercy four times in this paragraph, which means we should pay attention to it. He reminds his brethren (and is teaching us) that just as we were once disobedient and rebellious toward God but had now received His mercy through faith, (true) Israel, who is being disobedient and rebellious at this present time, will receive His mercy in the future.
Paul writes: What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith, but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. (Romans 9:30-31; Romans 11:26-27)
Both the Jew and the Gentile failed to please God on their own. Scripture says: The fool has said in his heart, “No God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good… (Psalms 14:1; Hebrews 11:6)
Man couldn’t save himself. But God through the substitionary death and resurrection of His only Son solved mankind’s sin problem and is now able to provide mercy to everyone who believes.
The final section of chapter 11 is a doxology. The word “doxology” comes from two Greek words, doxa, which means: glory or praise and legein, which means: to speak. It means: “to speak of His glory – these verses are a hymn of praise to Yahweh the God of Israel.
A Christian Group called Third Day released a new song called: Soul on Fire. The song title (not the lyrics) describes our brother Paul to a “T.” Paul, God’s apostle, was one of His greatest enthusiasts. Nothing could put Paul’s “fire out;” my how people tried, but they could not because he knew he was doing the right thing for all the right reasons.
God’s Church is suffering today because of a lack of enthusiasts like Paul.
It was the Truth of Romans 11:32 that compelled Paul to speak in adoring wonder marveling at Yahweh’s mercy: For God has shut up all (both Jew and Gentile) in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
The word mercy in the Greek is: Eleeo, which means: to help one afflicted or seeking aid, to bring help to the wretched. Mercy is an outward manifestation of pity. The Greek word has within it the idea of “living from (the assistance) of others.” So, to receive mercy from God is to live from another. Believers have been given mercy that contains within it the payment for our sins by the Lord Jesus Christ, which is life eternal. He took our death and gave us His life. Salvation is an act of mercy.
Our salvation is not by merit or works, it by God’s Divine mercy.
(To be continued)
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